paddle leashes

a boring topic i know but thought i would get some opinions…

i’ve used them rarely but really like the security of being able to let go of the paddle to read maps, get stuff out of day hatch, or relax while rafting with another kayak. as a canoeist, i’m used to being able to put down my paddle but in a kayak, without a leash (i don’t like jamming under rigging) it’s a hassle to always be minding your paddle, even on calm days.

some of you say they are dangerous in surf or rough conditions. do any of you use them? sometimes, always, only in calm, lumpy, etc?

weigh in with your not so humble opinion please, for my edification…

I often use a paddle leash when paddling big water. There are times when I simply have it in the rigging ready to attach to my paddle.

Even when using a paddle leash, I stick my paddle in the rigging when not holding it.

seldom and almost always
seldom in my kayak, where i can stick it under the rigging and never fall out, and almost always with a ski, where there is no rigging and i fall out with regularity. very nice not to have to hold onto the paddle while re-entering. i found this one with a quick release at the handle that i like a lot. doesn’t bother me while paddling.


I never use a leash, except when surfing. Being in the wrong place, good size breaking (dumping) wave will strip the paddle right out of the hand as well pull you out of the boat. I have had both happen me – sucked out of the boat and paddle stripped from me. I use a seat belt and a short paddle leash (12") attached to my wrist by an elastic velcro strap. I don’t advocate the former. The paddle leash has proven useful when I want to take pics of the action in the break zone. I don’t have deck lines on the surf boat and it wouldn’t hold the paddle in place anyway in a big breaking wave.

For general touring, even in big conditions, it would be very rare to encounter a big dumping wave out there that would strip the paddle just like that. You find breaking waves but generally of the spilling type given the depth of the water. These lack the same “juice” that a dumping wave has. Still, if someone wants to use a leash, I would say I have not had a problem with mine the way it’s set up. A long leash attached to boat may present an entanglement issue if you come out of your boat in very rough conditions. You would have to weigh this danger against the danger of losing your paddle in the same conditions. In a touring boat, I simply keep a backup paddle (Greenland storm paddle) securely tightly to my back deck. If you have a roll, practice reaching for your backup in the capsize position and rolling up with that. It’s best not to come out of the boat at all in rough conditions, where you and equipment may get seperated.


nice as a transition to more skills too
I agree with sing. I use a homemade leash, out of the elastic cord from tent poles. It rolls up on the paddle shaft when not in use, and no entanglement since I can pull it off if need to. I think they are also useful as folks are learning to deal with rougher conditions and yet may not quite have contolled capsizes down yet, you know, out you go and come up finding yourself without paddle or boat. Better to practice this than use the leash as a crutch, but also better to have paddle with you until you learn this too. I totally agree with sing that better to have a spare paddle than count on a leash in real storm winds that are capable of yanking the paddle away. I have a storm greenland paddle for high winds and it really helps. I would be interested in what you, sing and others say about a related issue, the proclivity of people preferring feathered paddle configurations and the increased risk of catching a paddle in high winds with feathered set ups.

Use very often
but only when surfing a sit-on-top or waveski; when you get bucked off of a SOT or waveski, swimming in surf , and your boat being swept in towards other surfers is much more dangerous than a leash. I only use the phone cord break away leashes and they should be attached to the bow of the boat. If you are using thigh straps and seat belt , and a phone coil leash your chance of entanglement is pretty low, its also not impossible to get untangled if it happens even in Maytag conditions. Alot of the nonesense you read about paddle leashes comes from people who have never used them and were not taught how to do it. When I’m paddling by myself off shore in waves in my touring SOT I also use a leash. I don’t use a leash when paddling SINKs, that includes surfing whitewater boats and surf kayaks, I’m thinking about using a wrist leash however.

In my solo canoe I sometimes use some parachute cord as a leash and tie it off to the seat rails… i dont see the need to drop a twenty on a pigtaild leash

I have read advice from others stating that the only time they DO NOT use a leash is while surfing (because of the danger of entanglement in the churning surf). I think that advice makes sense if you are using a long leash from paddle to boat.

I like Sing’s method of a short leash to the wrist, that sounds much more safe… difficult to get tangled in a 12" leash.

Paddle leash
I tend to use a leash most of the time.

In calm conditions, I can set the paddle down on either side of the boat during breaks and know that it isn’t going to drift away.

In rougher conditions, when there is any possibility of my going for an inadvertent swim, I use it. It keeps me attached to the boat while I’m flailing around in the water. (I’m working on a roll, but it is a slow process for me. )

While it is not a high-priority item, I’m still looking for a leash that has a more secure attachment at each end. In fairly windy conditions once, a friend holding onto his paddle had the wind blowing his boat so strongly that the velcro wrapping on the paddle came undone and there he was, treading water with a paddle but no boat.

I may well want to re-think the paddle leash issue when (if) I get a solid roll down.


My paddle leash
on my SOT is made from a 3 ft piece fo 2mm bungee cord (I think I could break it if I had to)a loop and a small push button keeper, which makes it asy to slip over the end of the paddle.I use it when the wind comes up out on the water but remove it when launching and landing through the shore break. If I get dumped, the paddle and boat will end up on shore anyway. If I ever get dumped while out, I’ll try to holdon to te paddle to prevent the boat from being blown away. The wrist leash, (ala Derik Hutchinson) won’t keep the boat with you, but avoids entanglement. You takes your choices :slight_smile:

Paddle Leash
I use a bungee with a 1.5" foam fishing float on the end which goes under the deck lashing. It’s handy for doing things, and will conveniently pull away under a pull, so I don’t worry about getting tangled.

Controversial but
Campmor has a nice one. Jed can thumb it off his paddle and have the knob under the deck in about one second. Styling move too; looks like something out of “Cocktail”. Nice to be able to stash a paddle doing a rescue or something that requires two hands.

right on the the back deckor front deck spare and the skills to roll up with it when you get stripped. Also need to get the rigging set up for the draw.

I use a home made
leash. Paracord attaching paddle to boat. Mostly river running for me, no real big WW. I always carry a knife on my PFD incase of entanglement too.

When using a modern paddle,
I use the Campmor model. Fast and easy to use.

Most of the time, I use a GP and then I just shove the stick under the deck lines.

I always carry a spare paddle, so I’m not too concerned about losing it.

Poodle leashes?!? Where’s my damn

Feathering and Wind…

– Last Updated: Feb-26-05 5:56 AM EST –

my personal opinion is that it is "much ado about nothing." No matter how you cut it, in wind and wave conditions, there is going to be some moments where your blade is going to be oriented where it catches the wind regardless of feathering. I have heard talk of where someone gets knocked over because the paddle blade acted like a sail. I frankly have not experienced anything where I felt like I was going to get knocked over by the wind action on my blade.

I should qualified that I use a GP in touring. I don't go out when the sustained winds are projected over 25 knots, with gusts exceeding that. When I surf, I use a minimally feathered (15-30 degree) Euro blade. I have been out when the sustained winds were close to 30 knots. I never felt threatened by the wind per se. More by big breakers. Once I got beyond the break zone, I would breathe a sigh of relief and catch my breath. Paddling out there, beyond the breakers, in the wind and wave, never bothered me in the least. But, of course, when I am surfing, I am not trying to paddle great distances from A to B, where opposing or cross beam winds will work on the Euro blade over the haul.

Anyway, I think folks should use whatever they want and get comfortable and competent with it. Although folks talk about being confused if they switch back and forth between types of paddles, I have not found this true. I think if one switches back and forth enough, there is minimal notice perhaps at the beginning and then it fades away. To me, "switching" is like the "rolling" or going from "orthodox" stance to "southpaw." Sure, you'll have a natural preference, but if you commit to working the less comfortable, weak side, you'll eventually eliminate the so call "offside." Generally, folks like success and not failure. They like the positive feedback of doing well on the "onside" and keep working that when, in fact, they should be working on the weak or "offside." In any "technical" training, after a warm up, I always advocate going right into working the "offside" of anything. Do it while your mind and body are fresh. When you are tired, switch to working the "onside." This is good because now you're challenging the "onside" when you are less than optimal. But, always stop on a positive note and before performance degrades significantly (and perhaps get imprinted).

I do like my GP more for touring not because so much because of feathering and such but more because it allows me to eliminate some gear. I don't carry a paddle float or pump anymore. Quite simply, I'm committed to not coming out of boat. I normally rarely tour paddle with anyone these days so I don't need that equipment for others (I do bring when I do go with others). When I stop to rest and snack on the water, the buoyancy of the GP acts like an outrigger. The same buoyancy allows me to balance brace or scull for support with ease, should I capsize and find that I blow my first roll or something.

There you have it. My opinion which applies only to me. YMMV.


Twice Saved By The Leash!
Got stripped twice today in the surf. Both times I simply yanked and the paddle ended back in my hand, rolled up and went uneventfully back out through the break zone.

Again, my leash is a simple braided nylon cord attached to my paddle and my wrist with velcro straps.


use all the time
I made a homemade one by braiding some brightly colored twine I found a Home Depot. I use a gallows noose around the paddle and the other end has a carabiner that I clip to the boat. I often have to toss my paddle into the water to unjam my paddling partner’s skeg…

Best attachment method?
I would think it is best to have the paddle leashed to the boat and not the paddler. Do paddlers do it either way or is one way favored?

another recurring one…
Different people have preferences for one or the other attachment point. There are good reasons for either.

I prefer mine attached to the boat.